Friday, October 14, 2011

Raising Ox Beetles (Strategus antaeus)

Raising Ox Beetles in Central Florida is easy. All you really need is a lawn that you don't spray with insecticide. Your house will also become a popular hangout for Florida sandhill cranes and armadillos.


Florida Sandhill Crane at our door


If you want to raise them yourself, you will have to start in the mid-spring through summer months. Keep your eyes open because you need to catch a male and a female. Even if you just find a female,  you will most likely get fertile eggs, but if you want to be sure you have to have both! Males come in two 'flavors,' major and minor. Majors have large horns, minors have small horns. Females don't have horns at all. They can be found scuttling about on your driveway, your lawn, on the edges of woods especially after a rainstorm. They also are attracted to porch lights and black lights, but never in great numbers. Alternatively, you can also lift up the turf grass (unsprayed of course) and look for grubs in the roots of the grass. You are likely to get a green june beetle this way, but hopefully there will be some of the larger ox beetle grubs. Finding a pair is the hardest part!


Strategus antaeus major male

I have a small five gallen fish tank with a solid plastic top only opened about 1/3. I fill the tank about 2/3 full with a mixture of
1/3 organic compost soil
1/3 sand
1/3 crumbled rotten wood (hardwoods, not softwoods)

I keep the tank on my back porch and out of the sun. Obviously, you don't want any sun light to hit your tank directly! It helps to keep the tank outside because it keeps the humidity levels up. Humidity is very important for all stages of development. I also spray water into the tank regularly. You don't want any standing water in the bottom of the tank, but they need moisture. Think of how much it rains in Florida.

During the summer months, I ferry beetles in and out of the enclosure. Children are great at searching and capturing ox beetles. I only put one male in there at a time and typically only keep an individual in there for about a week before letting them go. You can put as many females as makes sense for the size of your tank. This works well because it guarantees lots of eggs. I also feed them a chunk of banana once in awhile. I'm not sure if this is required considering I only keep them for a week at a time. After a month of ferrying beetles you can stop. You have just concluded the hardest part of raising ox beetles.

You are now faced with eight months of spraying water three times per week. After about a month, start gently mixing plain dog food pellets down into the soil every so often. Don't put too much dog food in there or it will get moldy and rot. After four or five months of this, you should start seeing grubs up against the glass of your aquarium.

Your larva will pupate and compact the soil around themselves for protection. The compacted soil is not necessary, but I always try to be very careful at this stage. They are very vulnerable to damage and their injury will follow them into adulthood. I remove and pupae I find to another container with soil so the remaining larva don't mangle them.

 Now is the time to start checking your pupae daily. Eventually, an adult will emerge. Just like butterflies, they emerge in a "soft" state. Their elytra are pale-colored and easily damaged until they harden.
Normally, they remain underground at this stage.

Here is a major male I raised before he hardened:
Strategus antaeus major male before hardening

After a few hours, the caramel orange color of its elytra will match the deep maroon of its head. Once they are completely hardened, they can be released to the wild.

Raising ox beetles is easier and every bit as fun as raising butterflies!

For some close-up photos of another major male, go to this post.



6 comments:

  1. cool man! here, in brazil, we have these beetles too.... but i can't find the male to create the captivity \=

    ReplyDelete
  2. would like to buy some of these

    ReplyDelete
  3. My daughter And I just spent all morning digging through our moist mulched flower beds looking for ox beetles. No luck, although we saw lots of other insect activity and don't treat our yard. We live nearby in Oviedo, any tips?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't seen any yet this year either. There probably aren't very many larva at the moment because the adults should be hatching soon. I always find the adults walking around on the driveway after a rain storm in the evenings.

      Delete
  4. Here in Austin, Tx. Just found a female. First time I have ever seen one - the whole family and I were positively thrilled!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just found a female in Dripping Springs, TX and love it! Wish I could keep her as a pet but i dont have the set up ready

    ReplyDelete